Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Intervention of victims’ families led to new police inquiries, Kingsmill hearing told

A lawyer has told a preliminary hearing into the Kingsmill massacre that new lines of inquiry are being investigated by police after families of the victims intervened.

Sean Doran QC, legal counsel to a coroner reviewing the killings, outlined to Thursday’s sitting of the Kingsmill inquest the details of a letter from prosecutors received earlier this month.

Mr Doran said the correspondence indicated that representations had been made to the police and the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) on behalf of the families of the victims in the case and that police now have a number of further investigative inquiries to progress.

“The correspondence goes on to confirm that a prosecution decision will be advanced as soon as possible after completion of the outstanding police inquiries,” he added.

Ten protestant workmen were shot dead in the January 1976 massacre when their mini-bus was ambushed near the village of Kingsmill in south Armagh.

They had been asked their religion and the only Catholic was ordered to run away.

The remaining men were then forced to line up outside the van before the gang opened fire.  Bessbrook man Alan Black was the only survivor of the attack.  He had been shot 18 times.

An inquest into the atrocity began 40 years after the killings but was suspended in September this year following a major forensic breakthrough by police, who believed a palm print found on a getaway van used in the attack belonged to a suspect arrested earlier this year.

Mr Doran told last Thursday’s inquest in Belfast that the coroner Judge Brian Sherrard has written to the PPS asking for an indicative time scale when inquiries may be completed and when a decision can be expected.

According to lawyers, a document outlining suspected links between weapons used at Kingsmill and other shootings was being prepared as well as various matters surrounding disclosure of information and the redaction of official documents. Two additional potential military witnesses from Royal Scots have also been identified.

Counsel for the murdered men’s families have appealed for top secret intelligence material to be released to the inquest.

Coroner Sherrard told family members gathered at the hearing,

“This is a bit like a duck on the water floating along. The legs are working furiously under the water.”

Speaking after Thursday’s sitting, Alan Black’s solicitor Barry O’Donnell, said,

“The investigation into the deaths at Kingsmill and the attempted murder of Alan Black has been beset by several serious assaults undermining the integrity of the investigation.”

Senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Ian Harrison said police were carrying out a number of inquiries, and added that it would be “inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”